Council Cops Rubbishing For Going Through Bins

IPA Research Fellow Matthew Lesh appeared in the Herald Sun on Monday 19 March about Maribyrnong Council rummaging through their residents’ bins and correcting their recycling habits.

Matthew Lesh, from free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, lashed out at the cost and time that would have been spent for the exercise.

“Looking through people’s bins is a creepy invasion of privacy — the council should butt out of our personal lives,” he said.

“Big Brother is not only watching you, they’re now sorting through your trash.

“It’s no wonder that rates are skyrocketing.”

Matthew also appeared on Channel 9 News:

Liberty Victoria’s Fraudulent Free Speech Award

IPA Director of Policy, Simon Breheny, commented on this story in The Australian about Human rights group Liberty Victoria awarding Yassmin Abdel-Magied with their 2018 Young Voltaire Award.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think-tank, hit out at Liberty Victoria for giving Ms Abdel-Magied a prize for free speech.

“I’m struggling to recall anything Ms Abdel-Magied has done to defend freedom of speech.” IPA director of policy Simon Breheny said.

Mr Breheny also said Liberty Victoria were a “fraudulent outfit” for not standing up for victims of anti-free speech laws.

“Where was Liberty Victoria when Bill Leak was being chastised by the Australian Human Rights Commission? Where were these so-called defenders of free expression when several QUT students were being subjected to a secret trial?” he said.

“Instead of defending the victims, this fraudulent outfit last year gave its freedom of speech award to the perpetrator of these injustices, Gillian Triggs.”

Regulations ‘send prices soaring, hitting the poor’

Daniel Wild’s new report How Regulation and Red Tape Makes Families Poorer, was featured in the Australian on Monday, in a news story Regulations ‘send prices soaring, hitting the poor’  by David Uren.

An analysis by libertarian think tank the Institute of Public Affairs argues that the impact of regulation on the cost of services is highly regressive, hurting low-­income households much more than for those on higher incomes.

Established housing has suffered the biggest cost increase in the past 20 years, registering a 330 per cent rise, compared with an increase in average wages over that period of 90 per cent.

Although housing prices are set by the market, housing costs are strongly influenced by zoning and building regulations, as well as by the Reserve Bank’s interest settings and population growth.

IPA research fellow Daniel Wild cites Reserve Bank findings that annual demand for new housing was stable at between 120,000 and 145,000 new dwellings a year until the mid-2000s. Since then, demand has lifted by 40 per cent, or the equivalent of 50,000 new dwellings a year, mainly as a result of elevated immigration.

The story then says:

The IPA report says that although parents benefit from generous government subsidies, most of these are absorbed by providers.

The average price of electricity has risen by 215 per cent since 1997, but most of that increase has occurred in the past decade when prices have lifted 125 per cent, or six times the rate of wage growth.

The IPA says that while network costs and upgrades, both from private enterprise decisions and government edict, have ­contributed to electricity price ­inflation, it says the biggest factor has been renewable energy policy and barriers to the use of coal.

To read the full story, click here.

Read the media release.

Read the report.

    Rowan Dean Slams JCU Over Peter Ridd Censure on The Young IPA Podcast

    Rowan Dean, author of the two new books The Best of The Spectator Australia and Corkscrewed, joined The Young IPA Podcast to talk about the role of The Spectator Australia in the modern media landscape, what it was like living in London during the Thatcher era and the censure of Professor Peter Ridd by James Cook University.


    On The Best of The Spectator Australia and the magazine’s role in the media today

    “One of the things that amazed me…was how prescient much of the writing was. Particularly on the big theme of the last few years…the whole Turnbull coup and Abbott being rolled. Conservatives getting in and then conservatives turning on themselves, or the Liberal Party turning on itself. The split of conservatives from the bed-wetters as we like to affectionately call them. It comes through how prescient many of the writers were about how this would play out and the ramifications that would come from this split. Often I was quite surprised and amazed reading articles and going ‘My God, this was written months beforehand and this writer was right on to what was happening.’”

    “The key thing I tell all writers for the magazine is three words: Provocative, insightful and engaging. And that sounds kind of obvious, but you’d be surprised how much writing doesn’t meet that criteria. The articles in the book are provocative, they’re designed to make you think. They are insightful, as I’ve said many of the insights are now become common part of the political discourse. And the key thing with The Spectator has always been the humour/personal style of writing where unlike most other magazines you really feel the different styles of the authors. And I really love that about The Spectator

    On the importance of being provocative

    “It’s the most fundamental point of any political commentary or cultural commentary. If you’re just going to regurgitate – and this is the problem with the ABC and much of Fairfax – the same established, politically correct, socially acceptable ideas it gets boring. And the purpose for reading is to make you want to put your eyeballs on that page and not go away from that page.”

    On living in Thatcher’s London

    “I wasn’t very interested in politics at all, and I got swept up very much in the Thatcher revolution. And it astonished me coming back to Australia on holidays in those first few years how Australia was heading down this path of ‘we don’t like individual enterprise.’ They hated Thatcher here.”

    “In the 60s, you had a kind of revolution where working class kids smashed through the establishment and became artists or popstars or theatre stars. That was replicated in the 80s by business. Suddenly any kid from the wrong side of the sticks could suddenly become a successful businessperson. Thatcher took that revolutionary 60s spirit and applied it to business. She said to go and be an individual, start your own business, we’ll get rid of the regulation, we’ll make it easy for you to go out and do your own thing. And the atmosphere in London took off.”

    On Professor Peter Ridd’s censure

    “It’s disgraceful, it’s scary. It flies in the face of everything Western Civilisation has stood for.”

    “All of our universities have been tainted with this disease where they think politically correct consensus is the answer to everything.”


    To listen to the rest of the interview, download and subscribe to The Young IPA Podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and the IPA website.

    BoM Blast for Dubious Record Hot Day

    IN September 2017, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) claimed a series of new record hot days across south eastern Australia, including on 23 September at Mildura. At that time, the mainstream media reported this as a new record for the state of Victoria, specifically claiming it was the hottest September day ever recorded – all the way-back to September 1889. This claim, however, cannot be verified because the BoM uses a non-standard method for recording temperatures at Mildura, and furthermore the parallel data provided to me in December 2017 as proof of equivalence is flawed and deficient.


    On 23 September 2017, a new record hot day for Victoria was claimed at the Mildura airport using an electronic probe in an automatic weather station (AWS) housed in a Stevenson screen.

    The BoM claims that measurements from such devices are ‘comparable’ to measurements from traditional mercury thermometers, which were used to measure official air temperatures at Mildura from 13 June 1889 until 1 November 1996.

    There is no documentation, however, supporting this contention for Mildura or any of the other nearly 500 AWS spread across the Australian continent. Furthermore, the BoM does not have World Meteorological Organisation, or any other form of accreditation (i.e. ISO 17025) for any of its AWS. In addition, the BoM uses a non-standard method of recording temperatures from such devices. Specifically, while one­-minute averaging of one­-second readings is standard across the world (e.g. in India, UK, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) the BoM records the instantaneous highest one-second readings from a probe as the maximum temperature for that location for that day.

    Given electronic probes generally respond more quickly to fluctuations in air temperature than mercury thermometers, it follows that this method – instantaneous recordings from an electronic probe – would result in new temperature maxima under the same weather conditions. The BoM, however, claims that temperature measurements from electronic probes are nevertheless ‘comparable’ with measurements from mercury thermometers because the BoM’s ‘purpose-designed’ probes ‘closely mirror’ the behaviour of liquid-in-glass thermometers, including the time constant.

    While this is theoretically possible, to know if it is being achieved in practice it is necessary to analyse parallel measurements i.e. data from an electronic probe and mercury thermometer operating side-by-side for a period of time.

    While the BoM has never released reports with parallel data supporting the claim of equivalence, in late October and early December 2017 a first and second lot of A8 forms were released to me – this followed my request to Minister Josh Freydenberg on 26 September for parallel measurements, and more specifically on 22 October for these A8 forms… immediately after I was informed by a whistle-blower that these forms contained the relevant information.

    Parallel data from Mildura – preliminary findings

    After I manually transcribed and analysed relevant data from a subset of the first batch of over 4,000 scanned A8 forms received on 28 October, I wrote to Minister Freydenberg on 12 November explaining that the values recorded manually on the A8 forms from the mercury thermometers for the period November 1996 to December 2000 at Mildura are significantly different from the official values recorded from the electronic probes.

    Just considering the values for September, the mean difference is statistically significant at the 0.05 level of probability, and is +0.34 °C, +0.27 °C and +0.28 °C for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, respectively. Somewhat surprisingly, the automatic weather stations at Mildura for these three Septembers recorded statistically significantly cooler temperatures than the mercury thermometers.

    Analysis of the second lot of forms, received on 4 December, has proven more problematic because of the quality of the available data, and absence of critically important data.

    The electronic probe that measured the record hot day on 23 September 2017 was installed on 27 June 2012 and I was initially told that there was parallel data only available through until January 2015. So, there is no reading from a mercury thermometer for Mildura for 23 September 2017.

    After scrutiny of the A8 forms actually provided, however, it appeared that the extent of parallel readings for the probe installed on 27 June 2012 would be limited to just the eight months July 2012 to February 2013… except that the BoM had omitted to scan September 2012 – the one month that could provide a direct measure of the equivalence of the relevant probe for that time of year at that location. After informing the BoM of this omission, I have been told it is being looked-into… that the relevant officer will follow-up on the missing month of data.

    Meanwhile, if we consider the residual available parallel data… the very hottest days according to readings from the electronic probe (30 November 2012, 18 January 2013, 5 January 2013, 8 January 2013, 6 January 2013, 1 December 2013, highest to lowest) have no equivalent reading from a mercury thermometer. In short, it appears that on the hottest days in Mildura – during the period that manual readings were being taken after installation of the most recent probe – no one was turning-up to take the manual reading from the mercury thermometer. As a consequence, the data for this period from the mercury thermometer is not normally distributed, as shown in Figure 1. This makes statistical analysis using standard techniques impossible as assumptions implicit, for example in a standard paired T-test, are violated.

    There are many more maximum temperatures measurements available for the electronic probe (n=948) than for the mercury thermometer (n=115), and the distribution is quite different, with a somewhat more normal distribution for the probe data, as shown in Figure 2.

    Fig 2. Distribution of measurements from the electronic probe recording in an AWS.

    Considering days when there is parallel data available in the temperature band of interest (the claimed-record hot day in September 2017 measured 37.7 degrees Celsius) the new probe has been found to measure up to 0.4 degrees hotter (e.g. 26 February 2013 the recording for the probe is 37.3, while the mercury thermometer recorded 36.9 on the A8 form). In fact, Table 1 shows that for the last month of available parallel measurements the electronic probe (Tmax-Probe) often recorded considerably warmer than the mercury thermometer (Tmax-LIG).

    Tbl 1. This screenshot of the Excel file where I record the transcribed values shows that for the very last month of parallel recordings at Mildura, the electronic probe was often recording hotter than the mercury thermometer by up to 0.4 degree Celsius. (The abbreviation LIG stands for liquid-in-glass i.e. mercury and alcohol thermometers. Also, note that the measurements/data points shown here are as recorded on the A8 forms that are one full day different from the values in the CDO and ADAM databases… this is because the actual recording is of the temperature the afternoon before.)

    In conclusion

    While it is official BoM policy to ensure that there is approximately five-years of overlapping parallel data when there is a site move or equipment change at an official weather station, this policy appears to be rarely implemented. Indeed, while it would seem reasonable to assume that there would be dozens of reports detailing the results from such parallel studies – none have been made publicly available.

    In the case of Mildura, the quality and length of the available parallel data makes it difficult to draw any real conclusions about the equivalence of measurements from the electronic probe installed in July 2012, with measurements from earlier probes and/or the mercury thermometer first installed back in 1889.

    The issue of verifying the claimed record hot day on 23 September 2017 is compounded by the BoM’s method of measuring temperatures – in particular the absence of averaging over at least one minute which is standard for electronic probes.

    Legislative Growth Slowing, But Still Growing

    Not since 1996 has the Commonwealth government passed fewer pages of legislation. IPA research shows that in 2017, the parliament passed 3,707 pages of legislation, a sharp decline since 2012 the number topped 8,000 pages passed:

    Likewise, the average number of pages per piece of legislation passed was 27.9, the lowest it has been since 1994:


    This significant slowdown in regulatory growth ruling the lives of Australians is a cause for celebration. However, while the growth is slower, this research indicates red tape is still growing.

    The fact remains that the government still introduced 3,707 new pages of legislation in 2017. Most pieces of legislation impose regulatory burdens on businesses and expand the role of the state in the daily lives of Australians.

    Slowing legislative growth is positive but should go further if we are to cut down on the estimated $176 billion of red tape strangling the Australian economy. For instance, the government should follow the deregulatory success of the Trump administration in the United States and adopt a one-in-two-out rule for new regulations.

    As long as thousands of pages of laws are added to the mountain of regulation each year, Australian living standards and productivity will continue to struggle.

    Peter Ridd Raised $99K To Defend Freedom Of Speech In Just 48 Hours

    Last week Professor Peter Ridd launched a GoFundMe to fundraise for his legal costs against James Cook University in the Federal Court.

    Amazingly, after a public appeal, he has reached the required $95,000 to cover his defence in just 48 hours.

    Institute of Public Affairs Executive Director, John Roskam, spoke to Alan Jones on 2GB this morning about Professor Ridd’s case.

    In August last year Professor Ridd was interviewed by Alan Jones on Sky News about his chapter in a book Climate Change: The Facts 2017 published by the Institute of Public Affairs.  In his chapter, The Extraordinary Resilience of Great Barrier Reef Corals, and Problems with Policy Science, Professor Ridd wrote:

    Policy science concerning the Great Barrier Reef is almost never checked. Over the next few years, Australian government will spend more than a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef; the costs to industry could far exceed this. Yet the keystone research papers have not been subject to proper scrutiny. Instead, there is a total reliance on the demonstrably inadequate peer review process.

    Professor Ridd said on Sky News:

    The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more…

    …I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef, I just don’t think they’re very objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and you know you can’t blame them, the reef is a beautiful thing.

    JCU claimed that Professor Ridd’s comments denigrated the university and the university directed him to make no future such comments.

    Thanks to the contributions of many IPA members and supporters of Professor Ridd, he is able to defend scientific integrity and academic freedom in the Federal Court.

    You can now read the Professor Ridd’s full chapter. The extraordinary resilience of Great Barrier Reef corals, and the problems with policy science, here.

    Ideas For Experts On Expertise Examining The Crisis Of Expertise

    When British MP Michael Gove said “The people of this country have had enough of experts” he electrified the pro-Brexit voters and sent ripples of horror through the global club of those who advise decision-makers and opine on matters of fact and of policy.

    One type of reaction to Gove’s incendiary comment I saw at the Mercatus Centre at George Mason University in Virginia early last year, when Peter Boettke and others launched Escape from Democracy: The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy,  a book which proceeds from core premises such as the limits of knowledge, the self-interest of experts, and the need for more transparency in decision-making (further description appears at the end of this blog post).

    Eighteen months on the ripples from Gove’s comments have reached the University of Melbourne, which has in response convened a conference of, well, experts: “A Crisis of Expertise: Legitimacy and the challenge of policymaking,” to be held on February 15-16 at the Melbourne School of Government.

    Not surprisingly, Gove, Trump, climate change sceptics and other Deplorables all get a mention in the conference blurb, which then frames the key question in the highly limited juxtaposition of experts v populists:

    “…trust in experts and established institutions is in decline. The role and legitimacy of expertise in policymaking is increasingly being called into question.

    Recently, populist and anti-globalisation movements in a number of countries, and on both ‘right’ and ‘left’, have achieved electoral success, in part by playing on these doubts and by rejecting the claims of experts to specialised knowledge and authority”

    Some way or other, you can be sure the experts at this conference will be looking for way for their fellow experts to be restored to their rightful place at the right hand of decision-makers across the globe. But as my colleague Matthew Lesh last year pointed out in an excellent article for The Spectator, experts standing on their authority were in fact fuelling the so-called “populist” backlash, and ignoring the sometimes problematic track record of experts and the need for continued democratic control. He quoted Cambridge classics professor Paul Cartledge on the appropriate role of experts.

    “When I charter a vessel or buy a passage on one, I leave it to the captain, the expert, to navigate it – but I decide where I want to go, not the captain.”

    And of course John Roskam had this wonderful piece on the UK’s “Michael Fish moment” (“definitely no Hurricane on the way…”), and Daniel Wild in a piece for the IPA Review drew on the brilliant and intellectually brutal Nassim Nicholas Taleb to point on that the predictions of experts cannot be trusted as they have no “skin in the game.” More recently, Dr Jennifer Marohasy wrote to the Minister for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg MP, urging him to adopt the Red Team/Blue Team approach to ensure a transparent process of challenge to the assumptions of climate science and policy.

    Truth-seeking is, in any event, assisted by dialogue, including with one’s perceived opponents. Hounding critics in the manner which has been seen in climate science, for instance, is not conducive either to legitimacy or to elucidating the facts, as Simon Breheny pointed out in a chapter from Climate Change: The Facts 2017, an excerpt of which appeared here).

    In fairness, participants in the University of Melbourne conference won’t necessarily be standing on Enlightenment notions of scientific notions of objectivity, empiricism or logic – this is a modern University after all.  Presenters carry the baggage of the post-modern turn toward critical theory, so at least one key session will examine “Public institutions and social imaginaries in knowledge production” and “Politics and discourses of expertise”. And so on, and on.

    A keynote presenter, Andy Stirling, is a former member of the international Greenpeace board member, and Professor of Science and Technology Policy at the University of Sussex. Naturally, to achieve this august position his successive degrees were not actually in science or technology, but rather “science studies” and “archaeology”, capped by a “D.Phil in science and technology policy”. Which is all very well I suppose, but it does put him at one remove from the actual truth-claims bandied about in the domains in which the populist backlash has featured, such as climate policy, sovereignty, the nanny state, economics, immigration, and trade, to name but a few.

    In one sense the Hayek quoting Austrians at Mercatus, the postmodernists at the University of Melbourne, and indeed “populists”, have some common ground: they agree that the argumentum ad verecundiam, the appeal to authority, is dead. The onus is on the experts gathered at the University of Melbourne later this month to map a path back to legitimacy which moves beyond mourning towards a model consistent with democratic accountability and the realistic limits of human reason.

    [A precis of points made by speakers during the book launch referred to at the beginning of this article appear below, for the benefit of readers of this blog post, perhaps even including conference participants]


    These notes summarise comments made by Peter Boettke, the authors, David M Levy and Sandra J Peart, and other guest speakers, at the book launch in May 2017:

    • Experts created this historical moment, not the public, by the way have weaponised expertise in a non-transparent emphatically anti-democratic manner. For example, Obamacare architect Professor Jonathan Gruber who said:

      Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage…And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

    • Economists have definitely contributed to the crisis in legitimacy, as economics has over the past hundred years transitioned from being a tool of social understanding to a tool of social control.
    • All humans are motivated by self-interest, including experts (and not just in the narrow pecuniary interest sense familiar from neoclassical economics).. “Experts have pecuniary and sympathetic interests which induce them to bias”. They can pursue public goals and private goals at the same time. Any premise that experts are only interested in and will inevitably discharge their advice to the betterment of the public good should be discarded at the beginning.
    • [the full quote from Michael Gove is germane to both those points: “I think that the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying – from organisations with acronyms – saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong, because these people – these people – are the same ones who got consistently wrong.“]
    • The development of expertise by its nature creates asymmetry in knowledge – the expert simply does know more about the particular domain or issue, and to an extent we must accept that and move on. So it is then a secondary question how much we can ask the expert to explain (so far as is possible) the basis for their decisions (a transparent approach), as opposed to occasions where so much technical expertise is required then it simply must be left to the expert with further explanation (non-transparency).
    • If there can’t always be transparency, then at least the non-transparency much be transparent – the experts should disclose the premises and data sources, and be honest about any doubts. There is a direct analogy to laws governing disclosure in our courts during civil actions and criminal trials, in which both parties are under positive obligations to produce information relevant to determining the matter at hand.
    • There’s a difference depending on whether policy goals are fixed (a linear process) or emerge (a cyclical model), and in the latter case discussion must be part of the expert’s work. Whether it’s Red Team/Blue Team, or some other method, dialogue (including with critics), will produce an outcome with more legitimacy and almost certainly better understanding and better fit of recommendations to better defined objectives.